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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Algernon ni hanataba wo (2015)


Also known as: Flowers for Algernon
Country: Japan
Format: drama in 10 episodes
Genre: drama
Cast: Yamashita Tomohisa, Kuriyama Chiaki, Kubota Masataka, Kudo Asuka, Kikuchi Fuma, Tanimura Mitsuki, Oomasa Aya, Ishimaru Kanji, Kaai Gamon, Maeda Goki, Ishida Issei, Kusakari Tamiyo,
Synopsis: Shiratori Sakuto was born with mental disability, so that at age of 28 his intellectual mind is still the same as 6-year-old. He grew up at flower's delivery store after his father's death and his biggest wish is to become smart so that his mother would accept him. His wish is granted when group of scientists need voluntary person with mental disability for their research experiment. As Sakuto's intelligent is increasing, his world as he knew it is collapsing.
Rating: 5/5
"Flowers for Algernon" is based on same-titled award-winning short story by Daniel Keyes. It has made into drama once before in 2002 with Yusuke Santamaria and Kanno Miho as leads and Korean version is "Hello, God" (2006) starring Yoo Gun and Kim Ok Bin. I actually took time from my sleeping hours and read it. If you have a chance, then you definitely should read it.

To compare the movie with short story, then yes, the basic story-line is taken from the story - mentally disabled man gets a surgery what makes him become genius for a while - but there are a lot of changes in the script. I hope you do not mind if I bring them out in the review.
This drama is without doubt Yamashita Tomohisa's most outstanding and best performances in his career. If anyone says that he cannot act, then they just have to see "Algeron ni hanataba wo".
Sakuto's view on world and life are a bit more advantaged than for most people with mental disabilities. His biggest wish is to become smart, so that his mother, who abandoned him more than 20 years ago, would finally accept him as her son and love him as she loves his younger sister. Of course for him, he does not see himself as "different", he just thinks that he is slower and not so intelligent as others. That is also why for him the equality with others is really important. As he is promised to become smart after the operation, then it is clear that there is no chance that he would say no.
If you compare the before and after, it seems like they are totally different people, but I am more amazed how greatly they bring out the changes of his mindset and how it all influences his life and decisions. Though I think my favorite part was to see the decrease of the operation influence. It is amazing how Yamashita Tomohisa acts out all the phases of the operation effect and it is the proof of him as an amazing actor to play this kind of big variety of characters in one movie. In addition, to act as person with disability is one of the most risky roles for an actor as it is easy to make small mistakes or over-act the part.
Yamashita Tomohisa put all his effort into this role to bring out all the sides of Sakuto and he did a great job with it. In the novel, the main-character is 37-year-old Charlie who works as a janitor in one industry building. The drama has been made into more romance-drama, because what would be drama with Yamashita Tomohisa without a love-storyline? Sorry, but as we already know how Japanese movie-industry works, it was kind of a must to add big love and friendship theme into it.
Due to this drama, I started to discover that I am not the biggest fan of Kuriyama Shiraki and I definitely do not like her character, Mochizuki Haruka, in the drama. She was the only reason why I thought of take down one star. Haruka is part of the science team who are working on a medicine to cure mental disabilities. She is unprofessional in her work and should have been removed from the team many many times for ruining and manipulating the results of the experiment and having no work ethics. As you know, I do not like whiny women who do anything for love and rather ruin other people lives and achievements just to have their love by their side. Of course she does not do it in the "mean" way, but still most of her actions are rather selfish, stupid and annoying as hell, despite how pure and sweet her affection seems. Haruka's character is added to the script, but the prototype of her character is Miss Kinnian who actually was the English teacher to Charlie and to her he has some kind of respect and affection.
I feel that about Sakuto and Haruka's relationship at one moment scriptwriters forgot to develop it any further. You can see everything very clearly when it comes to Sakuto - how and when there are changes, but I feel that Haruka is just "one moment this, other moment that" and it does not make me feel that her feelings were earnest or true. From the start of everything, Haruka has been having her eyes on Hachisuka-sensei who is the lab leader. I do not believe that a person is able to fall in love with someone so fast as she does and to be honest - which woman would not like to have a man who is looking like a superstar, is the most intelligent person in the room and says that she is the only one for him. Sounds really shallow to believe that it can be called true love.
So Hachisuka-sensei is fame-looking scientist who is willing to do illegal things to get the results. Years after his son's death and divorce from his wife, he is putting all his time and effort into revolutionary research, while breaking some morals and ethics. He is aware of Haruka's affection to him and he makes use of it as long as it benefits the research. I think he gets a bit deluded in the research and loses his path as the research starts to show results. In a way you can say that he created his personal Frankenstein monster and just started to check the things what to improve for next edition.
There are also Sakuto's friends who bring up the theme of "what is friendship and what friends do for each other". It is a lot based on the book as Charlie considers everyone at the work also his friends, but the smarter he gets the more he finds that they are just using him and making fun of him. Of course for Sakuto the case is not entirely like that as Ryuichi and  Kosuke really are his friends. Both of the guys are with problematic backgrounds and work at flower delivery service as Sakuto's "uncle" wants to give fresh start for guys like them.
One really important part of the drama is also Mai and Rio - young rich girls who come across Sakuto and end up becoming friends with him, Ryuichi and Kosuke. You cannot call Mai and Rio great friends from the start as Mai is sassy girl who does not like Rio so much because of the family relations, while at the same time Rio sees Mai as her only great friend. Rio is also suffering from a rare disease, that can put her to sleep for the rest of her life. Even though Rio develops feelings toward Sakuto, Kosuke is paying a lot of attention to her and despite being from different social backgrounds he is willing to protect her.
This drama is talking about so many social problems in this world and it is a pleasure to watch (if you exclude the Haruka part). I think one of my favorite story lines is with Sakuto's family. Being the one who abandoned her child, Sakuto's mother is filled with regret and hate for herself for all her life and there is no way to cure it. Despise, I absolutely do not like her actions, I think there is something sad and beautiful between Sakuto and his mom and even just by thinking about it, it makes me cry. After all, she is his mom and for him she was the only reason to become smart.

Spoiler-review: In the end of the movie Sakuto turns back to the way he used to be and forgot about everything that happened while he was genius. In the story, Charlie starts to have decline in his abilities too and understands that only thing that is waiting for him is early death just as it was for Algernon and he sits on a bus to travel far and die alone. So the drama has at least happier ending with Sakuto and guys travelling together to the seaside and starting their successful burger business there. What I loved the most about the ending was how Sakuto did not even recognize Haruka anymore and she had become just an stranger to him. Maybe I really did not like Haruka at all, but I think it was a good ending for their story. Even though I think that scriptwriters wanted to make it heartbreaking love story, then I just think that she deserved it for her actions.

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